The Anderson Building – Derelict Icon of Red Bank’s West Side

The Last Bastion Of Old Red Bank

The Anderson Building has been vacant as long as I can remember and that’s a long time. I’m a native of the area and I honestly can’t remember a time when it was in use. It has reportedly been vacant for more than 30 years which would make it empty since at least 1987. Proposed redevelopment has been in the works for some time but the project is slated to begin any day.

Anderson Building 2015
The Anderson Building, Red Bank, NJ in January 2015.

My interest, however, is in the architecture and the less tangible aspects—those tenets of my photography project concept that begin in the subconscious, which I’ll discuss below. First, though, I’d like to share some of the more observable details that interest me.

Staring at the weathered red brick building you wonder what secrets its long-empty interior holds.

Abandonment, architectural significance and 19th Century vintage are three key aspects that draw me to photograph a building like this. In this instance I’m photographing it as part of the landscape but those considerations are important in order for me to make the picture. The Anderson Building has at least two of the three. It might not be a 19th century structure; I think it was probably built in the first two decades of the 20th Century but it it has a late Victorian look and feel so in my mind it qualifies. This styling appears most notably in the korbeling along the roof line and the arched windows in the small southeast section. It also has the polygonal form typical for many such buildings of its era. Add to that the fact that it has been a fixture in the landscape for many years and it makes a great subject.

 My Concept

Anderson Building 2017
The Anderson Building, Red Bank, NJ in October 2017.

Staring at the weathered red brick building you wonder what secrets its long-empty interior holds. My mind imagines the 1940s and 50s, rainy film noir scenes with pork pie-hatted men coming and going and Studebakers parked on the street. Add some cigar-chomping movers in overalls wearing those 1920s-style caps and you’ve got the picture. And then I think of how that time runs up to and connects with my era and my time in Red Bank. It was essentially the bridge between old and new, as the transformation of Red Bank began in the 1990s.

The Anderson Building is one of the last (if not the last) original untouched architectural landmarks of the Red Bank I grew up in during the 1970’s and 80’s. It’s also an icon of the West Side, which always had a distinct character of its own from the rest of town and the building contributes a lot to the old Red Bank feel. It’s a perfect addition to the Abandoned Industrial sub-series of my American Landscape project because it symbolizes for me the post-industrial era in our landscape. And it’s a shining example (again, for me) of the decline on a local urban scale not only of small family-owned commercial businesses of this type, but of industrial decline in the United States. Even though this wasn’t a manufacturing site, this and similar light-industrial types of businesses typically resided in such buildings in countless small towns across the nation. Most of those businesses and buildings are now gone and empty, respectively, and their small town landscapes have changed considerably in the last 3 decades to become shopping and dining destinations. Consequently, buildings like this are being redveloped into mixed-use buildings that retain their historic character—and this one will become one of them.

UPDATE: The redevelopment of the Anderson Building began not long after I wrote this post, probably in Spring 2018 and is likely now close to completion. Unfortunately, about 30% of the original building was demolished. I like to see 100% preservation and can’t really imagine why they would have needed to destroy that much of it. Fully restoring a historic building for use as office, living and retail space is a good use of historic resources and preserves them for future generations.

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